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Norwich Body Art Festival returns to the city this weekend

PUBLISHED: 12:52 13 August 2014 | UPDATED: 11:22 15 August 2014

Norwich Body Art Festival 2013 at Open in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Norwich Body Art Festival 2013 at Open in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2013

A colourful celebration of creativity and the human body as an artist’s canvas is taking place in Norwich this weekend.

Emma Garwood. Photo: Bill Smith Emma Garwood. Photo: Bill Smith

The Norwich Body Art Festival (NBAF)- now in its sixth year - is taking place at Open in Norwich on Saturday and Sunday.

About 80 tattooists are heading to the city venue to take part in the festival which is set to be the biggest yet.

Emma Garwood, co-founder of the Norwich Body Art Festival, said it was a “celebration of difference and of art” that was open to all.

She said: “A lot of people ask if you need to have a tattoo to come to the festival, and the answer is no, it is open to everyone. The festival is a celebration of difference and of art, it’s not tattoo exclusive. We like to open up this world to everyone. It is a celebration of expression.”

My body beautiful

Thirty-year-old Emma Garwood, pictured, co-founder of the Norwich Body Art Festival and who lives in the Golden Triangle area of Norwich, shares the story of her tattoos:

“I remember the evening that my mum came home from work, proudly brandishing a hidden new moon on her back, full of the adrenaline of a post-tattoo rush. I was around nine years old, and I guess you could say, impressionable. You may already have an impression of my mum from that opening sentence, but if I told you she was a highly regarded, very well educated woman in business, would you be surprised?

“Still, I think the seed was planted. From what I could gather from my art teacher’s constant groans and compromising, I was never going to be an artist, yet I had all these pictures forming in my head. I consider myself a highly creative person – I work in the creative industries now – but to manifest the notions, colours and concepts that were in my head, I needed the help of a tattoo artist.

“My first tattoo was an innocuous mark on my hip when I was 20 – a symbol of an impending break-up, an emotional reaction, which others reading may sympathise with. But after that, I got more creative; a gramophone to represent my relationship with the roots of music; a constellation of stars – Ursa Major and Ursa Minor – signifying my mother and brother; a playful pair of nerdy glasses, embracing the quirks of my own character. You see, my tattoos are a tempered reaction to my own creative thoughts; I didn’t need to rebel, already having the acceptance of my mother; my moderate coverage doesn’t invoke the Marmite reaction from other members of the public very often – they’re just manifestations of a girl expressing herself, in a very personal way.

“To be a co-founder of the Norwich Body Art Festival, a local convention that celebrates that essence of expression is a massive honour. Yes, tattoos are very popular now, but doesn’t that just show what a diverse, colourful place we are lucky to be a part of? Vive la difference.”

As well as people being able to watch top tattoo artists at work, there will also be walk-in slots available for people to have tattoos done over the weekend.

“We have some of the best artists in the country coming to the festival, so if you are thinking of having a tattoo then the festival is really worth a look,” Emma said.

She added that one of the event’s highlights is a solo art exhibition showcasing the work of London-based tattoo artist Xed Le Head who specialises in geometric dotwork.

Entertainment throughout the weekend will also include bands like London’s Voodoo Binmen, dancer/sword swallower Leah Debrincat, burlesque performer Lou Safire, and Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School featuring burlesque performer Luna Rose.

Norwich Body Art Festival was founded by Emma Garwood, Kevin Maddams, from Outline Magazine, and Gema King, from Indigo Tattoo Studio, and the convention is estimated to bring in more than £60,000 to the local economy.

• Norwich Body Art Festival is this Saturday and Sunday 12pm–8pm at Open Venue, in Bank Plain, Norwich.

Tickets can be bought in Norwich from Indigo Tattoo Studio, Rock Collection, OPEN, Beatniks and Rude Boy Tattoos, and in Fakenham from 4Skin Tattoo. They can also be purchased on the door.

Prices - £10 per day or £17.50 for the weekend (under 16s £5 per day or £7.50 for the weekend)

There will also be a free after party for over 18s at The Crypt at Bedfords from 9pm on Saturday.

For more information visit

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